Like the old adage the grass is greener on the other side, I always feel there is more to experience, particularly in paths less travelled. As a backpacker, one has more contact with the people, who will often approach a lone stranger, whereas tour groups tend to interact amongst themselves. Some of the friendliest people on the planet are to be found in the Pacific Islands.
Close encounters with wildlife constitute some of my most thrilling encounters: polar bears in Churchill, gorillas in Zaire, and grizzly bears fishing for salmon in Alaska.
Another would have to be spending time with a genuine Stone Age tribe in Irian Jaya that live in trees, wear no clothes, hunt with bow and arrow, and still use stone axes to chop down the sago palm; although this entailed trekking days through mud and jungle, crossing rivers by means of logs, contending with insects, and bathing in questionable water.
Coming from a young country like Australia, I am always enormously impressed with the ancient architecture of Europe.
There are innumerable heart-warming stories related in my books and many amusing episodes, which often involved language. On one rail trip, the lady conductor patiently attempted to convey something to me and finally, in desperation and frustration, resorted to writing it on paper – in Chinese! Retaining the slip, I later enquired what it read and was informed that she had been asking me if I required anything to eat; hot water was always provided in a thermos for people to brew their own tea from leaves carried in screw top jars.
Another concerned my second meal in China. Expressing the desire to experience genuine local cuisine, my guide nominated a few dishes that I might care to try, including duck with water chestnuts that I selected. He wrote the appropriate words in Chinese on a scrap of paper and directed me to a shop with tables and tiny stools in the street. I was ushered in and a cloth ceremoniously produced as I handed over my written request. Whilst waiting, an elderly man in the traditional blue Mao suit, most commonly worn at that time, sat down beside me with a cage holding a live snake and proceeded to slit its belly to extract both blood and bile, which he drained into two small glasses containing rice wine. The poor creature was left to writhe whilst the man used chopsticks to beat the mixtures, which he then drank. In the meantime, my meal was served, and my stomach was heaving up and down like the snake as I attempted to consume the toughest meat of my life!
Being a woman, single, and mature age makes me very vulnerable, and I have not escaped unscathed, also referred to in my books. My advice is to travel light, dress conservatively, don’t wear expensive jewellery, be aware of who is around you at all times, particularly in crowds, and respect local customs.
Every Nook and Cranny: A World Travel Guide is available in hard cover, paperback and e-book from Xlibris, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Ingram. For more information, please visit http://www.fayeday.com/